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The Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old Single Malt is another fine whisky. Perhaps we ought to start with how to pronounce it Boona'havn (it means mouth of the creek). It is an Islay Malt and comes in standard 70cl bottles or miniatures. It is 40% by volume and retails at around £24.99 a bottle. It is readily available in the Supermarkets, at specialist retailers (both in their shops or online) and online in the Distillery Shop. The Distillery operates a Website www.bunnahabhain.com , which I think is one of the better websites. There is loads of information and also an online shop. The Distillery also has a visitor centre which opens March to October.
In terms of buying Malt Whisky and trying different types for the first time. There are several options. Specialist Whisky Shops (Wee Dram, Royal Mile Whiskys', Milroys of Soho, Cadenheads, The Whisky Shop in Lincoln, that shop in Stamford Bridge that I can never remember the name of etc) and indeed some Oddbins and some Majestic Wines will allow you to taste before you buy. Another option is to buy miniatures, not all Malt is available in miniatures but quite a few are. There is more than enough in a miniature to allow you to taste (5 cl). The third option is read Reviews like mine, although I have to say that whisky tasting is a very personal thing. I may find different tastes and smells to those which you find. Most importantly don't think that there is some mystery about Malt, there isn't. There is a wide enough selection, over 2000 Single Scottish malts to find one which you like.
Bunnahabhain has been operating as a distillery since 1881. They currently produce a modest range of 12 year old, 18 year old, and 25 year old with a couple of Special Malts the 1971 vintage and the Pedro Ximenex Finish. There are others around at specialist retailers. At this point I've tried the 12, 18 and 25 year olds. Bunnahabhain is an unusual Islay Malt. Water is an important component in the flavouring of Malt Whisky. Islay is a heavily peated area so as a general rule Islay malts are very peaty (almost smoky) in smell and taste. If you don't like peat you tend not to like Islay Malts. Indeed Islay Malts generally tend to be a bit of an acquired taste. I, personally, think they are great. Bunnahabhain is different. All its' Water is Margedale Spring water. It comes through rock, limestone, and is piped to the distillery. Consequently it is much less peaty than other Islay Malts. There is a peatyness about it but it is only faint smell, making it a much more palatable whisky and a nice introduction to Malts more generally.
Now for the tasting
I'm sat in front of my PC again this time with a full bottle, a tasting (nosing) glass (its got a bowl and a narrowing neck - it cost me £3.99 from Wee Dram Whisky shop in Bakewell in Derbyshire - if you've got a brandy glass that'll do)and a jug of fresh still water (Highland Spring to be precise - I prefer bottled water as tap water often has its' own sometimes unpleasant taste). Another reason I'm doing this in front of my PC is that the lighting is exceptional. Good lighting helps when you're tasting as it enhances the effect, and makes the colours more vivid. For the first time I've taken some photographs. One of the Bottle, incidentally this bottle is an old shape, I've had it a while. There is now a new shape. One of a nosing glass, empty, then with the Whisky in it. The first photo is taken with a flash the second without.
I've just stuck my nose in the bottle as usual , it smells really fresh and sweet, a bit light sweet sherry.
As usual I pour a decent measure into the glass. At this point I haven't added anything to it.
So I've poured the whisky into the glass and hold the glass up to the light. This is a gold, colour As I keep saying tasting and drinking good malt whisky is an experience to be enjoyed and savoured.
At this point I'm going to start drinking(or should I say tasting)adding water, about as much water as there is whisky. Don't swirl it around just stick your nose in the glass and sniff, which is what I'm doing. You're nose gets hit by a smell that is fresh and almost salt like (it reminds you of the seaside), you can smell the malt and there is that sherry smell. As usual, at this point my taste buds are getting excited. I keep sniffing to heighten the sense of expectation. Incidentally its' actually helpful to sniff the whisky at least at least three times, it makes sure that you pick up as much of the flavours as possible. Don't forget that smell is a major part of how we appreciate and taste food and drink.
Then taste it, again I'm not just swallowing it. Its' almost like chewing , moving the whisky around my mouth to spread the taste all over my palate. Thee is a taste of fruit, then a gentle nutty malty taste and you can taste oak. Its' sweet and you can detect that faint (and it is faint) peatyness about it. I really like Bunnahabhain, it was only the third malt I ever drank and I loved it then and I still love it. It feels really light.
Then as I swallow it there is a malty taste with traces of vanilla with a really faint hint of peat and that sweetness yet at the same time it tastes somewhat refreshing. It is a nice gentle drink
The whole tasting is a great experience. More importantly adding water, I think, releases the flavour. It helps you decide what you do and don't like. Do I like it? Yes Do I recommend it? Yes - to any one who either likes Malt or would like a nice introduction to Malt. At £24.99 a bottle it is a bargain. When you buy it, it comes in a nice cardboard carton with a little booklet tellying you all about Bunnahabhain, what more could you ask for...
On my rather personal and arbitrary scale 8/10 - a nice malt drinking malt.
Spot-on review, and if ever there was a topic suitable for review, it's malt whiskies! Well chosen subject, well-explained review process. I'd love to see how you get on, say, with Armorik, a Breton single malt...
Craigshadow12 30.07.2007 04:52
Great Review! I take my hat off to you :D. Craig :♥D